For the last 18 months, Denver Post staffer Chuck Plunkett's beat has been next week's Democratic National Convention and the logistical preparations his city has been making to host it.
Plunkett, an Arkansas native, is a former Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter who earned his masters in fiction writing at Pitt. He moved to Denver about five years ago and was working on The Post's investigative desk when he was assigned to cover the convention that starts Monday and will draw at least 50,000 visitors. I called my friend and former colleague Wednesday to find out if Denver is prepared for what one civic booster told USA Today was "the biggest event in the history of the city":
Q: Is Denver ready for the Democrats?
A: I think it's as ready as it could be. There aren't any huge lingering holes in their preparations that I see.
Q: What was the biggest problem the city has had to deal with?
A: The Denver Host Committee is the nonprofit organization that was formed to host the convention. Its main responsibility, above all else, is to raise the millions and millions of dollars in private cash donations that the Democratic National Convention Committee has to have to put this thing on.
The host committee has now raised the $40.6 million it agreed to raise and an additional $11 million in donated goods and services that was required of it. Because Barack Obama moved his acceptance speech outdoors to Invesco Field at Mile High, they have to raise an additional $4 million to $6 million more. They say they will have that done with a little bit of mop up into next week.
In trying to meet their money-raising obligations, the host committee had some problems. They were $11 million behind in fundraising in June, their last deadline, so they had to scrap two dozen parties at prime Denver locations that they had been planning for months and months and months for all the delegations that come. There are 56 delegations, and the host committee is required to welcome them all on the opening Sunday. It's supposed to be a chance to showcase the city and that kind of thing. But due to the lack of money, they had to scrap all of that and consolidate it down into one big party on Sunday for 6,000 delegates and guests.
Q: What will the convention cost the taxpayers of Denver?